Bhikhani by Pragya Suman

Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash
The sliced girl was looking like a radius
hanging, with the hands in air
moving like the second hand of a broken clock

The day to day frolic was disturbed as a tiny tumult caught my attention. I saw Bhikhani was crying and her mother was dragging her in the courtyard. Bhikhani was my neighbour, my chum, confider of my secrets. We lived together, we played together especially during my summer vacation when school was closed. No, she didn’t go to school but even at the age of twelve she was efficient in doing household work. Cleaning, sweeping, chapati making. Her chapatis are puffier and rounder than earth.

 “Look  how responsible she is at such a young age” elder women praised her.

But she doesn’t go to school. She doesn’t even know how to chalk out alphabets, and she can’t draw the geometrical circles.

I drew a circle, and she drew a round roti on a rolling board.

She draws more attention, I less, among the household women.

A tiny orb in a pale prism knows how to glitter but when it comes to silhouette it begins to wither away. Comparison has been silhouette to my friendship, and one day I would make chapati rounder than her. 

Today Bhikhani’s screech has spluttered everything. Every fiber of the collected crowd was dragging her, too much for my sinking heart. I want to wail, but nobody else-, her mother, my mother, every woman was of the  opinion –she should go to her father-in-law’s house.

A spiraling puff of smoke suddenly ejected off the chimney. Perhaps they were brewing desi wine. 

Bhikhani’s faint cries began to morph in the thick trumpet. A revolt in the throat! The battle was neck to neck. Bhikhani was twelve year old, thin, shrunken in a swarthy hue. Her mother was jet black, obese with sagging lumps in the waist. She used to do household work like brooming and wiping the floor in my house.

At last, other relatives of Bhikhani helped her mother. Bhikhani was forcefully laid down in the back of a jeep. A man of middle age soon galloped in the front seat as soon as Bhikhani entered the jeep. Driver started off and soon the cry got in deceleration and finally disappeared. Later I got to know that the middle aged person was Bhikhani’s husband.

My ardent company was lost.  At once a sudden dislodgement cracked in my Gharonda(toy house) . Previous year in the festive days of Diwali I and Bhikhani had made it. She brought the soil for the house from the field which was situated in the backside of our muhalla. We used to call that place jhiliya. A moderate size lake was there, filled with water hyacinth. Water hyacinths looked  like floating forests! Green lake’s water was stagnant in the clutch of water hyacinth! We used to pluck them from their liquid house. Their stem was hollow. Bhikhani and I  sucked detergent mixed water and held it in our mouth. We puffed out a ring of bubbles in the air. They floated like a jet plane in our childish notion. I tried to chase them. People used to say water hyacinths are demons as they eat fish.

Later one day I caught the unleashing words in my biology book. Water hyacinth sucks oxygen, making the fishes famished. I began to think about fishes yearning for oxygen, their gills squirming, as the stealer is beneath their fins and scales.  After Bhikhani’s departure, my gharonda’s dream bubbles were barren.  

Dr Pragya Suman is a doctor by profession and an award winning author from  India.  Recently she won the Gideon poetry award for poetry of her debut book Lost Mother and her second prose poetry book was published recently by Ukiyoto Publishing, Canada. Dr Pragya Suman is Editor in Chief, Arc Magazine, India.

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